This is the eighth installment in a nine-part series that will analyze the Giants' needs, position by position, in the upcoming draft.
Depth chart: Michael Boley, Keith Rivers, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chase Blackburn, Jacquian Williams, Greg Jones, Mark Herzlich, Clint Sintim, Spencer Paysinger, Adrian Tracy.
Not under contract: Jonathan Goff.
Scouting report: Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell often felt most comfortable using two linebackers and three safeties last season but the Rivers’ trade should give him more flexibility and the ability to play a lot more base defense with three true linebackers. GM Jerry Reese says Rivers can play multiple positions and they are high on his speed. They believe Rivers can reach his potential with a fresh start after suffering various injuries in Cincinnati. The former ninth overall pick out of USC could allow Fewell to potentially play Boley at middle linebacker. Reese says nothing has been decided but Boley has the ability to play the MIKE and showed that last year after Goff went down with a torn ACL prior to the season opener.
Kiwanuka may see some more snaps at defensive end now with the Rivers’ addition and Dave Tollefson’s departure in free agency. But Kiwanuka did get more comfortable with his hybrid linebacker/defensive end role as the season progressed last year.
Williams impressed with his speed and ability to cover and figures to only get better with a full offseason of coaching. Reese likes the potential of middle linebackers Jones and Herzlich after both were forced into duty last season due to injuries. Both should be major special teams contributors again this season. Sintim is attempting to come back from a torn ACL injury for the second consecutive season. Paysinger and Tracy are two more young players the Giants like so there will be competition in camp at linebacker.
The Last Time: The Giants last drafted a linebacker when they took Jones out of Michigan State and later Williams out of South Florida in the sixth round.
Potential targets: The linebacker room may be crowded but the Giants have been reportedly looking at some linebackers. They brought in Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower according to ProFootballTalk.com should he happen to fall to 32. Other linebackers the Giants had in were Bethune-Cookman’s DE/LB Ryan Davis, Idaho’s Korey Toomer and Temple’s Tahir Whitehead according to PFT.com.
Need Rating (On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being of highest importance): 3.